Study suggests Vitamin B-12 for cognitive health among elderly

New research indicates a lack of Vitamin B-12 may cause faster mental decline among senior citizens, according to a report in Science Daily.

Scientists at Tufts University conducted an observational study of 549 men and women with an average age of 75 who were split into five groups based upon individual Vitamin B-12 levels. The study looked at cognitive performance of each individual over eight years using results of a periodical dementia screening test called a Mini- Mental State Examination (MMSE).

The groups with the lowest and second lowest B-12 levels showed much greater mental decline than those with higher levels. The dementia test scores dropped .24 points per year in individuals with higher B-12 levels, while scores for the two lowest B-12 groups dropped .35 points annually. Martha Savaria Morris, an epidemiologist at Tufts University, said the results showed that even a small B-12 deficiency can seriously affect cognitive health:

Men and women in the second lowest group did not fare any better in terms of cognitive decline than those with the worst vitamin B-12 blood levels. Over time, their MMSE scores declined just as rapidly. Rapid neuropsychiatric decline is a well-known consequence of severe vitamin B-12 deficiency, but our findings suggest that adverse cognitive effects of low vitamin B-12 status may affect a much larger proportion of seniors than previously thought.

Eggs and lean meats offer good dietary sources of B-12, but many older adults have difficulty absorbing vitamins from food, which is why some researchers and health professionals suggest taking a daily vitamin B supplement.

Writer Bennett Holleman contributed this report.